The Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative is a worldwide program launched in 1991 by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) to encourage and recognize hospitals and birthing centers that offer an optimal level of care for infant feeding. As of 2012, 21,138 facilities in 152 countries were designated Baby Friendly.
Baby Friendly USA (BFUSA) is the US accrediting body for the Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative. Currently, there are 571 baby-friendly facilities in the US. Located in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, 26% of US births now take place in baby-friendly facilities. To find out if there is one near you, take a look at this list of Baby-Friendly Hospitals and Birth Centers in the US.
WHAT MAKES A HOSPITAL BABY FRIENDLY?
In order to be designated as Baby Friendly, a hospital or birth center must follow The Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding. The Ten Steps are endorsed and promoted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), and the US Surgeon General, among others.
THE TEN STEPS
- Have a written breastfeeding policy that is routinely communicated to all healthcare staff.
- Train all health care staff in skills necessary to implement this policy.
- Inform all pregnant women about the benefits and management of breastfeeding.
- Help mothers initiate breastfeeding within one hour of birth.
- Show mothers how to breastfeed and how to maintain lactation, even if they are separated from their infants.
- Give newborn infants no food or drink other than breastmilk, unless medically indicated.
- Practice “rooming-in” — allow mothers and infants to remain together 24 hours a day.
- Encourage breastfeeding on demand
- Give no pacifiers or artificial nipples to breastfeeding infants.
- Foster the establishment of breastfeeding support groups and refer mothers to them on discharge from the hospital or clinic.
EXCLUSIVE BREASTFEEDING AT 3 MONTHS
A Pediatrics study found that two-thirds of mothers who intend to exclusively breastfeed are not meeting their goals. More than 85% of mothers intend to exclusively breastfeed for three months or more, but only 32.4% do so.
The study, “Baby-Friendly Hospital Practices and Meeting Exclusive Breastfeeding Intention,” found that beginning breastfeeding within one hour of birth, and not giving supplemental feedings or pacifiers were associated with achieving the exclusive breastfeeding goal. The study concludes that increased Baby-Friendly Hospital practices, particularly giving only breast milk in the hospital, help women to meet their breastfeeding goals
EXCLUSIVE BREASTFEEDING AT 6 MONTHS
In “Breastfeeding and the Use of Human Milk,” the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that all women exclusively breastfeed for six months, but according to the CDC’s Breastfeeding Report Card, only 24.9% of US women were exclusively breastfeeding at six months in 2018. However, this figure is very close to the Healthy People 2020 target objective of 25.5% exclusively breastfeeding through six months.
And, some states are exceeding this target. In Alaska, 42.1% are exclusively breastfed at six months. Other states with rates over 30% at six months are Indiana, Maine, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, New Hampshire, Oregon, South Dakota, and Vermont.
About Peggy O’Mara. I am an independent journalist who edits and publishes peggyomara.com. I was the editor and publisher of Mothering Magazine for over 30 years. My books include Having a Baby Naturally, Natural Family Living, The Way Back Home and A Quiet Place. I have conducted workshops at Omega Institute, Esalen, La Leche League, and Bioneers. I am the mother of four and grandmother of three. Please check out my email newsletter on parenting, social justice, and healthy living.